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Title: Cynical Reason of Late Socialism: Language, Ideology, and the Culture of the Last Soviet Generation, (The)
Authors: Yurchak, Alexei
Date: 1997
Source: Cynical Reason of Late Socialism: Language, Ideology, and the Culture of the Last Soviet Generation, (The). Ph.D. dissertation. Duke University. 388 p.
Abstract: This dissertation, The Cynical Reason of Late Socialism: Language, Ideology, and Culture of the Last Soviet Generation, concentrates on the Soviet period of late socialism (mid 1960s to mid 1980s). It analyzes how the official ideology and the non-official culture of late socialism formed the identity of the "last Soviet generation." These people, born between the mid 1950s and early 1970s, were educated in Soviet schools and colleges and planned careers without ever expecting the changes of Perestroika. In that period the average Soviet subject neither believed, nor disbelieved, official ideological messages, which, due to their particular structure and to the conditions of their production and dissemination, were experienced first and foremost as omnipresent and seemingly immutable. These ubiquitous ideological messages included, for example, the official Party speeches, newspaper editorials, and slogans, the visual discourse of posters, portraits, and monuments, and the ritualistic discourse of meetings, parades, and other official functions. They constituted the official sphere of everyday Soviet life, which was easily observed and controlled by the state. At the same time, late socialism became marked by the emergence of a great and diverse non-official cultural sphere of the everyday, which consisted, for example, of various black markets of material and cultural products, unofficial cultural groups, rock music, and literature, political humor, and private writings. This non-official sphere was not easily observed by the state and was often experienced by the late Soviet subject is contradicting the official ideological messages. In these conditions the relation of subjects to the dominant ideology became "cynical," as manifested in diverse behaviors of pretense and simulated support within the official sphere. This relation in turn provided the inner dynamics of change in the late-1980s. The dissertation draws on fifteen months of fieldwork in St. Petersburg in 1994-95 during which extensive in-depth interviews were conducted with representatives of the last Soviet generation, artists who created the official propaganda artwork, and writers of the official speeches. It also examines Komsomol and Party materials from private archives, analyzes diaries and letters written in the 1970s-80s, and studied artifacts and texts produced within the non-official culture. Much of my insight into the issues I discuss here come from my first-hand experience of life in the Soviet Union in from the 1960s, 70s and 80s. I myself belong to the last Soviet generation: I was born and grew up in Leningrad, was educated in Leningrad schools and institutes, and worked as an engineer at a Leningrad research institute, as a librarian at the Leningrad Public Library, and as the manager of a famous independent rock-band Avia. I came to study in graduate school in the United States in 1990.
Subjects: Cultural anthropology
Political science
Format: thesis/dissertation
Online: View Online
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